11th November 2020
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An important week didn’t get off to the best possible start as Agincourt Xena, ante post favourite for the Category 1 BGBF Nottingham Breeders Stakes, was eliminated on Monday in the heats. Our recent winner on Derby final night in the In Memory of Natalie Savva Trophy missed the break slightly and found trouble though we certainly could moan that the going heavily favoured the outside runners as you can see from the night's results. We move on and Agincourt Xena can now be fully prepared for a tilt at the Oaks, that starts at the end of the month and already we have taken advantage of the opens advertised on Sunday nights at Swindon where we have begun to prepare some of our potential entries for the bitches' classic. Yes we are not entirely happy that the Oaks is again in Nov/Dec but of course this year we have to be grateful to both Swindon and the sponsor, Colin Davey, who have stepped up to the plate to make sure the event goes ahead at all. I’ve said numerous times now that the Oaks deserves a Summer/Autumn slot and like so many of our top competitions we need an early and a proper look at who has the appetite to stage the likes of the Derby, St Leger, Oaks and a host of other group 1 events and work our calendar out around these events, we will come out of this horrible pandemic at some point so let’s be ahead with forward thinking.
A lot has been said this week about the GBGB’s decision to stop the Owner-Trainer licence next year This licence allowed a trainer to keep up to two greyhounds at home and still be able to compete against professional trainers. I can see the argument on both sides, firstly, it gave a chance for people to train greyhounds whilst either working in a full time job and also for say trainers who have retired from work to have just a couple of dogs to train for a bit of fun, most importantly it gave youngsters an opportunity to dip their feet in the water into the sport. In years gone by we used to have a permit licence which allowed a trainer to keep up to 4 dogs with kennel standards a bit more relaxed, I had one myself for 2 years and though you were only allowed to race at provincial tracks like Harlow, Swaffham, Mildenhall etc it was a breeding ground for some of the most successful trainers that have graced the sport in the last 30 or 40 years, the owner-trainer licence was designed to do the same. Now on the other side the GBGB have had to adhere to the strictest of welfare guidance with any residential kennels meeting the standards that are now set out in their Greyhound Commitment. Over two thirds of the trainers who held the owner-trainer licence didn’t keep their greyhounds in their homes but in kennels outside their properties. It was found that though the greyhounds were mostly kept in great condition the actual kennels didn’t meet the standards set out that professional trainers have to adhere to, also with the ones that were kept in the house they were more likely to be exposed substances on the prohibited list such as caffeine, prescription medicines etc. I feel sorry for those owner-trainers who enjoyed the licence introduced in 2017 and of course some of these will be lost from the sport completely, many will have no chance of either financing kennels that meet the required standard to gain a professional licence or have the time to adhere to the stricter rules such a licence requires. This will have a real impact on tracks that relied on these smaller owner-trainers to meet the required numbers of races to provide a service for both SIS and Arc and with the amount of races needed at every track to cover a full service it will put extra pressures on professional trainers, promoters and racing offices.
Is there an alternative or some thinking outside the box that could introduce a new generation of trainers to the sport and give part time trainers, who have a full time job, a way of training greyhounds in their spare time? I’m not so sure, the sport has limited funds as we still have no compulsory levy to be able to give grants to potential smaller trainers to build a smaller block of kennels so that’s a no no, maybe there is a company out there that can build say a portable type block of kennels that meet every standard set out by the guidelines and as long as there was enough room in people's gardens to place the kennels and a reasonable paddock area they could introduce a new owner-trainer licence. The portable blocks could be one kennel, two or even four where they could have up to eight greyhounds, again space in the garden for paddocking would determine how many kennels any trainer could have. If there was a company out there who could make these portable kennels at a reasonable price they could lease them out for a small fee or sell them directly to the trainers. Why not then employ an ex trainer or two of good standing whose sole job is to visit these kennels at least twice a year to make sure all guidelines were met and inspect the condition of the greyhounds. I’ve said before there has been a wealth of talent of ex trainers who have retired over the years and the sport never uses their knowledge or services again. This wouldn’t cost a fortune, once these trainers take their dogs racing they are subject to the same rules as any professional trainer anyway, bookmakers and promoters could even sponsor anyone under say 25 for up to two years if they took on this type of licence. We also have loads of people in the sport who own or deal directly with companies that could design and make a portable style kennel, we have millions of portable homes from basic ones to incredible luxury ones so portable kennels to the required standards surely can’t be that hard or excessively expensive to make.
On the racing side this week we have another busy and important week. Tomorrow at Perry Barr the St Leger kicks off with six heats. Antigua Fire heads our team, runner up last year he unfortunately picked up an injury in a trial at Nottingham in September and we have given him plenty of time to get over the injury. He has had two trials back but realistically is a trial and week or so behind where we would like, he will be only about 80 % fit and faces a pretty tough heat but he is a class act and if he can qualify he will come on a ton for the race. Aayamza Royale was impressive beating some high class rivals in a trial stake over track and trip last week and will take her chance, the 710m is stiff but still well short of what she stays but it will be mightily hard to keep her out the frame and she should go well. Avastorm is yet to capture her very best form but she was a gallant 3rd in last year's event and loves Perry Barr. Glassmoss Sis is our fourth entry and is in the same heat as Avastorm and certainly has the ability to make the semi final. The Birmingham Cup over 480m also kicks off with four heats and without doubt looks a classy competition. Hopes Bullet is our sole representative and trialled pretty well last week, he should also go well.
On Sunday another Category 1 starts at Central Park with the Kent Derby, judging by recent trial stakes and races it’s going to very competitive. Antigua Jet has taken to the track well and deserves to be our leading entry while Antigua Boy should be respected though does look a bit draw dependant. Antigua Romeo gets no luck in trap draws but is classy and Coolavanny Kyser was very impressive on his debut last week taking a hot maiden in good style. Henlow Maiden Derby finalist Hardy Rebel has run well at the Kent track and deserves a place in the field.
We will also be at Swindon again on Sunday as we prepare a few bitches for the forthcoming Oaks and use some opens to give some other dogs races. From last Sunday’s races we can see that the Oaks will take some winning as there was potentially a few nice sorts racing. Aayamza Lexi ran well when second on her first look and we have a few more trialling and racing this week.
On Thursday at Perry Barr we took the chance to prepare for the St Leger and Birmingham Cup with trials and races. Coolavanny Messi was well beaten after missing the break slightly when favourite in a 480m whilst Avastorm was only 3rd in a St Leger trial stake. The top division looked as good as any staying Category 1 final and Aayamza Royale shrugged off the disappointment of narrowly being beaten in the Dorando Marathon with a gutsy come from behind performance to snatch a victory late on at an incredible 10/1. Both Hopes Bullet (29.56 calc) and Antigua Fire had a pleasing work out before racing.
At Romford on Friday, Jesses Sister couldn’t defy a tough draw in trap 3 in the Friday Night 500 Bitches Final when down the field. Innfield Kaci ran well on her open race debut to qualify for the Friday Night 500 Maiden final finishing a good second while Sober Express ran very well to finish second in his heat of the Friday Night 500m Final and Tiffield Blueboy was a gallant second in a hot 400m Standard beaten just 1/2 length by his nemesis Goldies Hoddle.
On Sunday at Central Park Coolavanny Kyser made a nice debut when winning a maiden by 2 lengths in 29.56 (-10) , Ivy Hill Skyhigh followed quickly with a win when stepped up to 642m scoring by over 3 lengths in 40.13 (-20), Antigua Boy had no luck when finding his route completely blocked at the first bend and could only finish 4th in the 480m Maiden Final.
Over at Swindon it was good to see Hopes Doggy get off the mark after battling to victory in a 476m Maiden in 28.52. Both Aayamza Lexie and Antigua Jet found one to good for them in 476m Standard races but ran well.
HENLOW & TOWCESTER REVIEW
At Henlow on Monday we had wins for Bobs Duke (16.81) and Shazzas Bullet who took an A6 in 28.00.
On Tuesday evening we just had the one winner as Jaxx Purple scored well in an S1 in 33.47.
On Thursday Run Free Snowy ran well to take an A5 in a good 27.76 (+ 50) while Go Wild Turbo was brave on debut coming again to win by a short head in 28.28(+30) in an A7. We also had a winner on Saturday from a handful of runners when Furious Falcon scored 460m taking an A6 in a good 27.87 (+20).
On Sunday at Towcester we had the first race winner as Ardera Nidge showed great pace to land a D1 in a good 15.98 but that was as good as it got for the rest of the meeting.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN RACING - AAYAMZA ROYALE
WHAT’S ON NEXT WEEK
Tomorrow we travel to Perry Barr to try and add a sixth St Leger title to our cabinet whilst the Birmingham Cup also gets underway.
On Friday at Romford both Sober Express and Innfield Kaci have difficult tasks in trying to win two minor finals and on Saturday we are supporting Monmore with a few entries in their opens.
On Sunday Central Park take centre stage as the Category 1 Kent Derby starts with six first round heats and Ivy Hill Skyhigh goes in the Novice Stayers final while we also send a team to Swindon.
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Our tip last week Ivy Hill Skyhigh won well so let’s hope we can continue some better recent form. The St Leger kicks off tomorrow at Perry Barr and though last year's runner up Antigua Fire is a bit short of work he still represents our best chance and is a much bigger price than last year. Aayamza Royale as I said will be difficult to keep out the frame and is also worth a small interest.
On Sunday the Kent Derby begins at Central Park and we are well represented and for me Antigua Jet could be our best chance of landing the spoils.
ANTIGUA FIRE - 2 pts each way ante post - St Leger - Perry Barr - Thursday
AAYAMZA ROYALE - 2 pts each way ante post - St Leger - Perry Barr - Thursday
ANTIGUA JET - 2 pts each way ante post - Kent Derby - Central Park - Sunday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
IVY HILL SKYHIGH - 4 pts win Central Park - Sunday - WON evens